24 hours in Cape Town

It’s 65km from Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (the city’s most visited attraction) to the wind-whipped tip of the peninsula in the Cape Of Good Hope Nature Reserve, past majestic Table Mountain, golden beaches, charming fishing villages, verdant vineyards and a colony of super cute African penguins at Boulders.

Clearly, a day isn’t nearly enough to enjoy everything that this beautiful, creative city has to offer but the following itinerary will help you make the most of those 24 hours.

Table Mountain Cableway Table Mountain Cableway, Cape Town. Image by George Fox ES / CC BY-SA 2.0

Morning

8am: Skip the line at the kiosk by advance printing a web-ticket for the  Table Mountain Cableway.The revolving car provides 360 degree views as you ascend this mesmerising 60-million-year-old mountain. From the upper cableway station it’s around an hour’s round trip hike to the 1088m summit at Maclear’s Beacon.

9.30am: Return to the city for breakfast at one of many excellent cafes: there’s old favourite Manna Epicure (151 Kloof St) with its coconut bread toast, eggs and avocado, or buzzing Jason Bakery (185 Bree St) for espresso and croissants. When you’re done, stroll along Long St, lined with attractively restored Victorian buildings housing an eclectic collection of boutiques, shops, eateries and bars.

10.30am: Pop into the lush Company’s Gardens which began their cultivated life as a vegetable patch for the Dutch East India Company in the mid-17th century; the partly al-fresco Company Garden’s Restaurant (19 Queen Victoria St; thecompanysgarden.com) here is a delightful spot for refreshments.

At the adjacent South African National Gallery (Government Ave) there are always interesting exhibitions. Or you could drop by the imaginatively designed South African Jewish Museum, next door. Here you can see the beautifully restored Old Synagogue dating from 1863, the functioning and equally impressive Great Synagogue (1905) and the permanent exhibition Hidden Treasures of Japanese Art showcasing a collection of exquisite netsuke - miniature ivory and wood carvings.

Noon: That explosion you just heard is the Noon Day Gun being fired atop Signal Hill. On the east flank of the hill is the old Muslim quarter of the Bo-Kaap; have your camera ready to capture images of the photogenic pastel-painted colonial period homes and mosques that line the cobbled streets. There opportunities to buy local goods at the premier craft shops Monkeybiz (43 Rose St) and Streetwires (77 Shortmarket St) while down the hill is historic, cobbled Greenmarket Square which hosts a daily craft market.

Bo-Kaap, Cape Town The colourful houses of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town. Image by Chris Preen / CC BY 2.0

Afternoon

1pm: Hail a cab and head to The Kitchen (11 Sir Lowry Rd), a fabulous café-deli where Michelle Obama lunched when she was in town; owner Karen Dudley is a warm hostess and has recently opened The Dining Room (117 Sir Lowry Rd), a couple of doors down, serving a cakes, teas, and a set dinner every Tuesday and Thursday (R290) that you must book for.

You’re now in edgy, up-and-coming Woodstock where you can check out contemporary galleries such as Stevenson (160 Sir Lowry Rd) and What If the World (1 Argyle St), as well as the abundant street art around the Woodstock Exchange (66 – 68 Albert Road; woodstockexchange.co.za), a great place to tap into Cape Town’s art, fashion and design scene.

Also don’t miss the fabulous collection of emporia at the Old Biscuit Mill (375 Albert Rd). On Saturday the wildly successful Neighbourgoods Market happens here, offering the cream of the region’s artisan food purveyors and product designers – however, unless you love jostling with crowds, make sure you arrive early for this.

4pm: Next to Cape Town Stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup, Green Point Urban Park (Bay Rd) is a beautifully designed urban oasis - with a fabulous kids play area - watered by streams flowing off Table Mountain. From here meander along Sea Point Promenade taking in the Atlantic coast views. There’s always some piece of public art along this grassy strip that’s become a local talking point.

Bring your swimming costume, too, as at the Sea Point Pavilion (Beach Rd) you can enjoy a cooling dip in the outdoor pools, or continue down to Clifton’s wind-protected beaches. They're divided by giant boulders; Clifton 3rd Beach is the cutest, hosting a body-beautiful crowd catching the rays

The Woodstock Exchange, Cape Town. Image by Simon Richmond / Lonely Planet The Woodstock Exchange, Cape Town. Image by Simon Richmond / Lonely Planet

Evening

7pm: Time for sundowners. Prime candidates include sipping some lovely local bubbly at Tobago’s Bar & Terrace (Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, Beach Rd), or savouring premium whiskies at Bascule (West Quay Rd ) overlooking the marina at the V&A Waterfront. Better yet climb aboard a sunset cruise at the Waterfront for spectacular views from Table Bay back towards the city. Waterfront Charters (waterfrontcharters.co.za) have cruises on either the sail boat Esperance or the motor vessels Sea Princess and Southern Cross.

8.30pm: If you’ve been taking it easy on the food front (never an easy option here) indulge in a haute cuisine feast from Aubergine (39 Barnet St). Otherwise the delicious small plates of food at Hallellujah (11 Kloof Nek Rd; hallelujahhallelujah.co.za) or the scrumptious pizza at Ferdinando’s (84 Kloof St) will hit the spot.

Twelve Apostles, Cape Town Sunset view of Twelve Apostles, Cape Town. Image by Simon Richmond / Lonely Planet

After Dark

Long St is always pumping with lively bars (lovers of craft beers should head to the Beer House (223 Long St) with 99 offering on tap and in bottles) and clubs such as the roof-top Waiting Room (273 Long St). For something more sophisticated try the cocktail bars Orphanage or Mother’s Ruin on Bree St. Other clubs to try include Assembly (61 Harrington St) in the East City and gay-friendly Crew (30 Napier St) in De Waterkant.